2012 Cuenca Perspectives Collage

2012 Cuenca Perspectives Collage


My mission in publishing this blog is first to provide a living history of my settlement and life in Cuenca, and to provide myself and the reader with a journal account delineating my reasons for why I have chosen to settle in Cuenca. Second, the posts are my way of staying in contact with family and friends back in the states, and to provide them with an understanding of a country and culture that most North Americans have little knowledge and awareness. Third, the blog is open to one and all who wish to compare and contrast the experiences of expat bloggers living in Cuenca, so that you can determine whether or not from your perspective Cuenca is an appropriate move for you. Fourth, my blog provides another example of how expats view and interpret life in Cuenca. Ecuadorians and Cuencanos who may read this blog are especially invited to post comments that may enhance all expats understanding and appreciation of Cuneca and its people, or to correct any misinterpretations in my assumptions and perceptions of Cuencano culture. Finally, I hope I can convey the feeling of love and appreciation that grows within me each passing day for this heavenly city nestled in the Andes and its very special people.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


I haven’t blogged in some time.  I was way too busy while in the states, and working through my usual computer problems, which for me is a way of life.  First, I stayed with a friend for three weeks who had no Internet connectivity.  My days and evenings were busy, so I accessed the Internet when I could visit at a commercial establishment like “Starbucks”.  Since late in the evening was usually my best time to access the Internet, these places were usually closed.  I had better access during the week I spent with my one brother, and the weekend with my son was too busy to worry about the Internet, except for quick email checks.  While in Miami, I faced more connectivity problems at the hotel I was staying, and by the last four days, my computer went into a permanent sleep mode, and I or no one at the hotel had any idea how to wake it up.  After returning to Cuenca, it took Jose Cortez, the computer whiz, less than two minutes to fix the problem.

Technology problems were not helped any when after buying time to reactivate my Trac Phone from my last visit to the states, it wouldn’t work after I enjoyed one successful call from my son.  I finally had to have the company send me another phone, and go through the whole process of reactivating, and then getting my minutes transferred from the old phone to the new phone, as well as getting a new number.  By the final days of my trip, I had all these unused minutes that will expire in seventy days and are only usable in the states.  I also managed to leave a power cord at my son’s home.  Me and technology, the miscues just never end.  Other than the usual technology problems, everything else went well.

May was definitely a summer month in Chicago.  Except on the day I arrived and the day I departed, which were extremely cloudy and rainy, Chicago had beautiful weather with no rain all the other days of my three week stay.  Oh so much sunshine, and temperatures that ranged from the 60’s well into the 90’s.  I remember five days of 90 degree temperatures, with two of the days setting new records, one of which reached 97 degrees.  The beauty of it was that it was warm or hot without being humid.  Everything was so clean-looking and green, and in full foliage a month ahead of schedule.  It was really nice to be away from the daily rains of Cuenca.  I read at the beginning of my trip that an Ecuadorian meteorologist had stated that by the end of May, Ecuador should be over its La Nina.  Since I’ve returned the fall-off in rain has been very significant.  I hope I’m not jinxing us in Cuenca by even bringing up the topic of rain.

The big event while home in the Chicago area was the surprise celebration of my mother’s 90th birthday.  It was definitely a surprise for her, and it was great visiting with old family friends, some of whom we had not seen in years, as well as the many relatives from my mother’s and late dad’s side of the family.  The dinner was followed with socializing with out-of-state guests into the evening and over breakfast the next day, as out-of-state family members made their way back to Wisconsin and Ohio.

My mother's sister, Dorothy, and her husband Bob along with some of their adult children put together a printed family album of photos, most of which we do not have in our own family albums.  This was a really appreciated surprise.

A special thank you to my niece, Jennifer Banham, who spendidly handled the design and printing of the invitations, the mailing, and the RSVP's.

Also greatly appreciated was the gift of the Brownd's, Ron and Sandy, who did a professional job of taking the photos of the day's big event.

These are some photos from the big day:

Photo: Grandma's Cake

                  Mom at age two or three.

Jim Mola and Bernice Weber married on October 12, 1943.

            Greeting Table at the Birthday Party

Gamba's Ristorante Reception Room

Mom enters with my brother, Ron, thinking she is attending dinner with just the immediate family.

Mom is one of nine children.  Her brother Harry, and Ken (Duke) Weber are still with us, although unable to attend the event due to advance age.  The youngest member of the family, Dorothy Wick, mom's sister who will be 81 in November is having a little fun with mom as the various guests approach with hugs and well wishes after having shouted "Happy Birthday",  when she first entered the room.

Mom's sister, Dorothy Wick, Mom being hugged by her niece, Carmelina Spiccia, and Mom's youngest son, Ron.

Various toasts and testimonies were offered during the dinner.

               We only made mom blow out one candle from the birthday cake.

Mom thanked everybody for their coming and having been a part of her life.  Mom was not short on words once the microphone was placed in her hands.  Her last comment was, "And I don't want to wind up in no damn nursing home."

This is my brother Leo's family with his wife, Carla; his daughter, Jennifer and her   
husband, Dominic Banham on the left; and their son Brian and his wife, Christie on the right, with their two children, Joshua (21/2 years old) and Toby less than two months.  Their son Danny, and my two sons, Marc and Chris were unable to attend the event.  

Mom with her three sons, Ron, Jim and Leo

The oldest generation and the youngest generation--Mom with the youngest of her two great grandsons, Toby.

The greatest gift my mother and father ever gave us three boys besides their love was a strong sense of family pride and responsibility, which was handed down to them and their siblings from the generations that came before them.

Like the last time when I visited home, we experienced great weather the two days we traveled into Chicago, and the day we spent in Indianapolis as well.  With my brother, Leo and his wife, Carla, we walked along the three mile round-trip canal, the countless townhouse and condos, and the new museums—all of which were beautifully done and examples of the reconstruction and beautification that has taken place in so many American cities over the last twenty years in their efforts to revitalize downtown and nearby areas.  I only wished I had a few more days to spend at home with family, friends, and an additional trip or two into Chicago.

My brother, Leo and his wife Carla, who visited me in Cuenca about two months ago managed to locate the only Ecuadorian restaurant in Chicago called, “La Pena”.  It proved to be a very good choice and the food was delicious, and so were the martinis.  Our waiter’s family lives in Banos just a half an hour from me in Cuenca, once again a small world.  He also informed us that there is one other Ecuadorian restaurant in Chicago.

I visited my eldest son, Marc, in southern Maryland for a prolonged weekend, which went so fast, I felt like I was leaving as soon as I arrived.  Our first evening together, we ate at one of the best sushi places that was on par with the best I’ve had in Chicago and Hawaii.
I enjoyed meeting many of Marc’s friends and acquaintances on Friday evening as about two dozen of us attended a fondue party, followed by a symphony concert by the Baltimore Orchestra, and a return to the fondue party.  The rain was down-pouring heavily and assisted by a tornado as we left the symphony, and we were soaked to the skin getting to the bus stop and then walking back to the party, but we were having fun.
Baltimore actually runs bus lines into the downtown city, as a way to get cars off the street and to encourage more of its residents who live on the outskirts of the city to come into the city for evening attractions.  Would you believe the bus fare is free, so that certainly beats the twenty-five cents charged in Cuenca, even at the half-price senior-citizens rate.
Marc and I also dined at “Fogo de Chao”, which is an upper scale Brazilian steak house chain found in most large American cities.  The meal was excellent, with a salad and appetizer bar arrayed with high quality selections.  I really went for the cheeses.  The wait-staff at various times brought seventeen varieties of meat to our table and sliced them from the skewers.  Having the opportunity to particularly eat tender meats of sirloin, rib-eye, filet-mignon, shrimp, pork, beef, chicken, ribs, and my favorite, the garlic sirloin was a feast.

I continue to hope that Marc will come to visit me in Cuenca this summer.  There are places I would like to go in Ecuador that I’m just waiting for him before I tackle the rain forests, big Banos, etc.  Marc is coming out of the Air Force this summer, and the uncertainty on whether he will have the vacation time from his current job available makes a visit unlikely.  Just hoping a miracle happens.

I arrived in Miami on my last Sunday evening in the states, and I stayed in the art-deco historical district of South Beach in Miami Beach.  It was extremely busy with tourists and extremely humid.   I ventured out for only an hour to ninety minutes at a time.  I was left very exhausted from the heat, and couldn’t wait to get back to my very nice and very air-conditioned apartment.  My hotel, Casa Grande, was located on Ocean Drive, with restaurants, bars, and clubs running continuously for blocks.  Every establishment has an outdoor eatery, with the sidewalk cafes hugging the buildings separated by a three feet space for walking down the center and then more tables and booths along the curbside.  When I arrived Sunday evening, the place was hopping.

The greenway and beach was across from the restaurant establishments on the other side of Ocean Drive.  There are all kinds of high quality volley ball courts and interesting work out equipment in the parks.  The ocean is hidden by what appears to be man-made mounds of sand covered in grass, so one has to make their way through various paths through the mounds to get out to the beaches.  I rotisseried myself twenty minutes on each side and headed back to the hotel.  It turned out even twenty minutes was too long, as my ghostly white body parts that are normally covered by clothing instantly became barbequed red. 

I had done way more than my share of eating for the past month that I had been in the states, so I was glad I had a kitchen and fully furnished apartment that allowed me to eat-in and avoid the egregiously expensive venue of food, drinks, and entertainment.  A chicken wrap with a large coke costed as much as a dinner with alcohol at Tiestos in Cuenca.  

I actually lost weight while in South Beach.  True to my luck with technology, when I returned to my home in Cuenca and got on the scale, the disk battery was dead.  It took investigating three stores before I found one that carried the disc size I needed.  It was worth it, I was actually down a pound from when I left Cuenca.  How does one accomplish such a feat after eating three major buffets, indulging shamelessly in the dessert bars, and eating all the ethnic cuisines I can not get in Cuenca?

I must say this being my first time anywhere in Florida, besides traveling in and out of the airport, the city of Miami and its surroundings is very impressive by night with swaths of various colored lights which bring a glow to buildings and in some cases stream across bridges and areas that elicits an excitement and attractiveness to the city.  The city also has some very interesting architecture, and I love architecture.  As I mentioned I was staying in the Art-Deco Historical section of the city.  I was going to show you a smathering of photos of some very impressive  Art-Deco facades as well as photos of a small section along Ocean Drive in South Beach, but as only I can do, the photos were eliminated when I tried to transfer them from the camera.  Oh well, some things with me never change.  So that's it folks.  I'm back in Cuenca, getting settled, resting up, looking forward to seeing friends, and eagerly waiting to see what unfolds next for me in my life in Cuenca, and what role this city and its people play in my future endeavors.